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My View: Small changes add up and help environment

By Genevieve Rados

I am the kind of person who loves New Year’s resolutions. Every year, I resolve to work out more, eat less processed food or be more patient with my children – with differing levels of success.

I try to make an “eco-resolution” every year as well. One year it was remembering to bring my reusable bags to the grocery store; this year it is bringing my reusable coffee cup everywhere I go.

I love September, and I also make back-to-school resolutions. This year, I decided to use reusable sandwich boxes for my kids’ lunches, and to make sure we have our metal water bottles with us wherever we go.

I do these things because I feel a responsibility to the rest of the world. As a middle-class American, I am blessed to have more than enough resources to live comfortably. But using more than I need, contributing to water, air and landfill pollution, feels unfair.

For the past few years, I’ve felt like I have been doing my part by tweaking the little choices I make day to day.

But this August and September, my well-meaning eco-resolutions got a big kick in the face. In comparison with the destruction from the hurricanes that ravaged Houston, Florida and a number of islands in the Caribbean, my little attempts to help stop climate change seem paltry.

We all know that the ocean temperature is rising. We all know that a warmer ocean means bigger, and rainier, hurricanes. I think what Harvey, in particular, brought home to me was how much human suffering comes from those “abstract” seeming climate facts. And I feel a disconnect between the suffering climate change brings, and the tininess of all my efforts to help the environment.

In the face of this disconnect, the first thing I am trying to do is acknowledge the importance of my choices. Even though they feel insignificant, it’s still better to “light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

Driving less, buying less and throwing away less may make only a tiny difference, but a tiny difference is better than no difference. And tiny changes can add up.

There are over 300 million of us Americans, and 100 million households. Together our households emit 8 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. If we all changed some aspect of our behavior – whether eating less beef (did you know that cows produce greenhouse gas emissions?) or throwing away less food (did you know that food waste in landfills worsens emissions?) – we could make a real difference together.

As I do the little things in my life, they keep my values in the front of my mind. And as I reflect on my values, I’m inspired to be more engaged in climate policy.

Putting a child in a shelter in Houston ahead of myself means not just tweaking my daily habits, but making my voice heard on climate policy. So this fall, beyond the reusable sandwich boxes and metal water bottles, I decided I would also support the Environmental Defense Fund or a similar nonpartisan group trying to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we emit as a country.

I haven’t done this in the past because I didn’t see how it could make a difference. But after seeing so many people suffering from so many hurricanes, I feel like I have to do it. I have to light a candle in the face of what feels like a darkening storm.

Genevieve Rados, an adjunct professor of history, is a second-year law student at the University at Buffalo.
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